Side notes from the Side Yard

Bits of paper from our  intern rehearsal. — Photo by Chloe Jones

A Salt Lake City native, Chloe Jones graduated from Wesleyan University this past May with a double major in dance and Hispanic literatures and cultures. She currently serves as development intern at the Yard, a position which brought her to Martha’s Vineyard for the first time. In less than one month, she fell in love with the Island. Her other great loves include dancing, writing, traveling, cooking, and hiking. She will be reporting each week about her experience working at the Yard.

My desk at the Yard is located in a small shed off the theater and studio building. It has become one of my favorite spaces here — as much a home as the Side Yard.

Working in the shed, I find myself attuned to sounds: the gentle clamor of wind chimes, a chorus of birds. With the studio so close and it being open-air, I often hear the artists at work.

Last week my days were punctuated with the sound of laughter. Belly-aching bouts of it.

It was the contagious laughter of puppeteers (and sisters!) Shoshana Bass and Jana Zeller of Vermont’s Sandglass Theater. They came to the Yard to perform two family matinees of “Fritzi’s Flea Circus” and “Kasper and the Cow,” as well as to develop new work.

On Thursday evening they invited all of us at the Yard to an informal showing to share what they had created over the course of their residency.

We gathered in the studio, where they had rigged a charming, site-specific set. In one corner of the room Shoshana sat at a desk and scribbled furiously. Suddenly her other hand shot out from under the desk. In it she held a paper fortune teller turned puppet — the four corners of its mouth opened and closed rapid-fire, and it flew circles around her.

The scene became a game of Shoshana attempting (and comically failing) to catch the fortune teller and pin it down. Eventually she won, slamming the fortune teller to the desk. Without missing a beat, she began unfolding and refolding the paper until — in a matter of seconds — it transformed into a swan.

She held the swan out to us, cupping it gently in her hands, and the swan took flight. I could not believe my eyes at first.

Shoshana and Jana had engineered a delicate pulley system out of invisible string, enabling the paper swan to glide, hover and swoop.

I left the showing in awe of what they were able to create with a single sheet of paper (and a great deal of imagination).

Four days later, in our weekly intern rehearsal, the five of us attempted to choreograph a six-minute dance. We have been generating movement material, ideas, and improvisational scores for several weeks now, and we are excited to start stringing it all together.

We write our various scores and sections on a piece of paper, cut each one out, shuffle them all together, arrange them in a random order, put on a six-minute song, and dance the order. We do this several times, letting chance take the reins.

By the end of our three-hour rehearsal, we have multiple six-minute dances. Each one feels like a unique world, yet they all stemmed from the same sheet of paper.

Perhaps even 8.5 by 11 has no limits.